Spoiler… maybe. I'll try not to give any details to give it away, but Esparan's been out for a while, so let's talk about messing with expectations!
I am a pantster; that means I write "by the seat of my pants." Wait… have we never done a blog about Pantster vs. Plotter? I'll have to do that soon! Anyway, how I write means I don't know where the story is going until it gets there. When I wrote Esparan, it was straightforward: march up, kill the traitor, and done. But it was just too easy (not to mention too short!!). As I sought a way to flush it out, Rakhund came to existence. But he wasn't enough. I followed with Grigson and then, for fun, buffed up Prince Marfaie too. Terant was already there, kicking Kitable's a$$. So I had a team facing Tohmas now, not just Marfaie and his wizard!
I won't give away names or plot points, but the main thing I loved about these extra characters was the variety. Rakhund was a mystery that slowly unraveled; magic, but not a wizard. Did you figure out the answer before it was fully revealed? Grigson was subtle, the perfect opposite of Tohmas' brute force, sneaking in dissension and misdirection throughout. Terant was a match for Kitable, and he shows it here, giving Kitable a run for his money in direct conflict more than once. Man, I loved dispelling Kitable and dropping him into a bag of flour from five feet in the air! His later interactions with Shimmer were some of my favourites in the entire series. Showing off his battle wounds indeed!
And then Marfaie, the true power behind the war. I'd initially seen a bitter man bent on revenge, a very one-dimensional character. But he proved me so very wrong! He had to be Tohmas' match at the end of the story, so his character grew and evolved until he actually beat Tohmas and Carsh at their own game.
With each character, I set up an expectation. Grigson was a spy character, Rakhund a wizard. Marfaie was a prince. Or were they?
I once played a tabletop RPG with someone who had a character with a suit of armour that could change its appearance. They made that plate mail armour look like wizard robes and specialized in quarterstaff as their weapon. Imagine the fun as the enemy thinks they are facing a wizard and gets pummelled in close combat instead! Because people do assume based on appearances. We communicate with our appearance, but we can deceive as well. We mislead our characters and our readers too!
My characters expected certain things from those characters. They were wrong.
My readers expected certain things would happen to those characters. Maybe they were wrong too. Did anyone expect what happened to Grigson?
That's what makes it so much fun! It's weird, but we writers enjoy torturing our characters. Given a chance, I'm knocking SoulBurner out of Tohmas' grip, breaking Carsh's arm, dispelling Kitable, breaking Lance's heart, driving Tril mad, etc. And that's just in one book! The best way I can do that is to ensure I'm not being predictable.
I hope at least one conflict took you by surprise in Esparan!
If you're looking for some free ebooks this season, the group promos are below. First one is REVIEW copies (so free but you got to leave a review online) and the rest are free with newsletter sign ups or similar! Enjoy
AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.